â€œENTER by the narrow gateâ€¦â€ (Lk 13,24) Sorry if I bring out this rather inconvenient topic, but if we have to be realistic about our life, I believe we need to consider it and get to the bottom of this need for suffering. If thereâ€™s no pain in life, there will be no gain, nor glory in this life or in the life hereafter.
In fact, the ideal attitude toward suffering is to welcome it, since in the first place, it cannot be avoided no matter how much we try. We have to cultivate a more positive outlook toward it and relish its inherent benefits for us.
We need to suffer for three main reasons. First is that our human nature itself by necessity involves it. We are made of different parts and aspectsâ€”material and spiritual, personal and social, and ultimately, the natural and supernatural destination meant for usâ€”and this variety of parts and aspects unavoidably involves tension.
While itâ€™s true that these parts and aspects are by nature meant for each other, and therefore, they ought to be harmonious, itâ€™s still a harmony that we have to work out. Because of that, we cannot avoid some kind of tension, and tension is a kind of suffering already.
Secondly, aside from the tension caused by our different parts and aspects, we also have to contend with the effects of sin, both the original one and our own personal sins.
Sin makes us suffer some more. We know that due to original sin which makes us lose the state of original justice meant for us when God created us, we have lost not only grace but also what are called the preternatural gifts.
These preternatural gifts are integrity, immortality and impassibility. The loss of integrity means there is now not only the natural tension between the different parts of our nature but open conflict and hostility.
The loss of immortality means we now die. We are supposed not to die in our original state of justice. Now with sin, there comes a time when the original and harmonious union between the body and our spiritual soul will be severed.
The loss of impassibility means we now are prone to suffer pain, tiredness, sickness, etc., where originally we were supposed to some extent to be exempted from all these, except for the natural tension due to the dynamics of our different parts and aspects.
Thirdly, and this is the most important, we suffer because in order to pay for our sins, in order to work out our own healing and salvation, we need to share in the suffering of Christ who took on all the effects and consequences of sin, dying to them only to resurrect as a way of conquering sin and its effects.
We cannot effect healing and salvation for our wounded nature due to sin by suffering simply by ourselves all the effects of sin. We need to suffer together with Christ. His suffering is the redemptive suffering, the healing and atoning one.
Thatâ€™s why, Christ said it very clearly. â€œIf anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.â€Â And on another occasion, he told us that we enter by the narrow gate, and not the big, wide gate that leads to perdition.
Thatâ€™s why, when Peter told him that he was the Christ, the son of the living God, Christ told him to keep quiet, and not to say it openly, because while what Peter said was true, there is something yet to be known and done before one can truly believe and say that Christ is the son of the living God, our Redeemer.
And that is that he had to suffer. â€œThe Son of Man,â€ he said, â€œmust suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.â€ (Lk 9,21)
Christ certainly does not want us to fall into a kind of triumphalism. Itâ€™s the anomalous attitude of thinking that by Christâ€™s resurrection, his conquest over death and sin, we are already saved without having to undergo the suffering of the cross.
This is a common tendency of ours. We like to call ourselves Christians, saved and redeemed, and to frequent the sacraments, but we donâ€™t like to go through the cross. This is certainly anomalous.
The cross purifies us, it strengthens and matures us, and it truly identifies us with Christ in his redemptive work. Thatâ€™s why, we need to suffer. Thatâ€™s why, we ought to love the Cross. (By Fr. Roy Cimagala)